Cases of what seem to be spontaneous past-life memories in children have been extensively investigated for more than thirty years by Ian Stevenson, M.D., formerly Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia.
He called his first book on the subject Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. Years later, with some 3,000 cases on file, he felt justified to call a later, multi-volume work—reporting cases in India, Burma, Turkey, Alaska, and elsewhere—Cases of the Reincarnation Type.
Apart from the particulars of the individual cases, his collection of cases shows statistical regularities that strengthen confidence in the collection as a whole. For example, in 51% of the cases the “previous person” underwent a violent death. A tendency for the purported memories to appear in early childhood and fade as the child grows older are another statistically regular feature.
Dr. Stevenson’s published research, it should also be said, is notable for its rigor. Cross-verifications, searches of medical records, and reporting of discrepant testimony are standard in his work. Dr. Stevenson points out the weaknesses in his cases as well as their strengths. Also worth noting is the extent to which he discusses other possible explanations, both normal and paranormal, as alternatives to the hypothesis of reincarnation.
Other researchers with established professional credentials have independently studied similar cases.